Published Thursday, February 28, 2013
By CHRIS GOLTERMANN
Whether the baseball that rocketed off Tyler Dahlberg’s bat landed just in front, or beyond Northgate High’s outfield fence in right-center field in the bottom of the eighth inning against Woodward Academy may remain somewhat of a deep-rooted secret.
But its final destination didn’t matter to Vikings players. They were winners in a big way on Wednesday, regardless.
With Northgate down to its final out for the second straight inning, Dahlberg turned on the second offering from new War Eagle reliever Michael Livingston, and deposited a fastball deeper than any War Eagles outfielder could reach for the game-winning hit with the bases loaded to give his teammates a hard-fought 6-3 comeback victory as Viking bats finally warmed up over the final four innings.
“He knocked the fool out of it,” said Northgate head coach Greg Hamilton of Dahlberg’s blast. “The guys played hard and fought till the end. We don’t have one guy out there throwing 90 mph for us. We have 21 players on the varsity and 19 got in the game. That’s the way it’s probably going to have to be for us this year.”
Technically Dahlberg’s shot, with Woodward’s right fielder giving chase all the way to the end, landed at the fence in a diving effort as umpires initially gave the home-run signal, allowing the Viking senior second baseman a chance to relish the moment in grand-slam fashion while eventually mobbed at the plate.
“It’s over [the fence] now,” Hamilton joked. “I guess we can give him an inside-the-park grand slam.”
But Hamilton equally credited Woodward Academy and left-handed starting pitcher Brandon Rohrer with keeping Northgate’s bats to just two hits through four innings of a 2-0 lead off two unearned runs. War Eagle pitchers struck out 10 Vikings in all, including at least one in each of the last four innings, but wound up being outhit 8-5 for the game.
Northgate equally denied Woodward Academy (0-4) — which had suffered heavy losses to graduation much like the Vikings this spring — its first victory of the season, while evening its record to 2-2 heading into today’s 5 p.m., makeup game at home against Northside-Columbus.
“For a while we couldn’t do anything. We struck out 10 times. We walked five and we pretty much gave them their first two runs,” said Hamilton. “That left-hander [Rohrer] they had kept us off-balanced. Coach [Jim] Minor is as good as they come.”
Dahlberg was able to cap off a victory, though, after coming up to close a wild final at-bat for Northgate, which fought off a potential loss multiple times on Wednesday. The Vikings had runners on in each of their last four plate appearances, stranding them in the fourth, fifth and sixth before coming through on Jordan Schmidts’ clutch two-out double in the bottom of the seventh.
After rallying from a 2-0 deficit to force extra-innings, Northgate watched Woodward squeeze home a go-ahead run in the top of the eighth for a 3-2 lead despite never getting the ball out of the infield in an inning that included a walk, two wild pitches and two sacrifice bunts including the successful squeeze by War Eagle Drew Mancuso.
Things further seemed to slip from the Vikings fingertips when a courtesy runner following Chase Allen’s double — his third hit of the game — was thrown out trying to advance on a groundball to short. Mancuso’s dropped foul pop at first had initially allowed Allen to rifle his next chance to right-center for a leadoff hit.
Despite swapping runners on the fielder’s choice, Northgate managed to load the bases with a pair of two-out walks on eight consecutive balls. That brought up Dahlberg, a left-handed bat, as Woodward’s coaches motioned toward Livingston to come in from the outfield.
If not for Schmidts’ clutch two RBI double during a three-hit seventh for the Vikings, though, the War Eagles may have finished off its first win of the season. Two-out rallies in the fourth, fifth and sixth never matured for Northgate, the last of which came after Allen hit a double that one-hopped the fence in left-center.
But in the seventh, Carter Sheheane blooped a leadoff single into short-left before Connor Wilson followed with a one-out single to right. Dahlberg was then plunked across the chest to load the bases against Woodward reliever Richard Jackson, who caught Northgate shortstop Blake Helton looking for the second out only to have Schmidt turn on his first pitch toward the gap in left-center to score the tying runs.
Despite struggling to find the strike zone at times, Viking relievers held Woodward to just one hit over the final four innings on Wilson Morgan’s one-out double in the seventh. Northgate’s Buddy Green, however, got out of the jam while working 2 1/3 innings of relief.
Schmidts took the win after coming on for Green to get the final two outs of the eighth. Teammates Matt Farmakis, who started on the mound, and Robert Massenburg, also held Woodward scoreless.
Catcher Spencer Perry had Northgate’s other hit in the victory.